Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh

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American History, Republican Party

Well, it’s move-in day at the Zen Center (ZCNYC-Fire Lotus Temple). Exactly how long I’m going to be there is up in the air. My intention is to stay at least six months and possibly a year, but we’ll see how it goes. And where I go after that I have no idea.

Anyway, some brief comments — Tom Cotton has learned that Iran is expanding its reach in the Middle East and already controls Tehran. He’s a quick one, our Tom. See also Jeb Lund, “None Dare Call It Treason: Tom Cotton, Iran and Old GOP Ideas.”

The CPAC conference room was standing-room only, stuffy with faint sweat, hot worsted wool and heavy breathing for boilerplate comments you could have predicted before you crossed the threshold. Cotton – who looks appropriately like Anthony Perkins in Psycho – proudly likened America to Rome, an empire that slowly tore itself apart over for-profit foreign wars, external threats leveraged to drown out domestic discontent, revenue diverted from infrastructure. Listeners murmured approvingly. Cotton asserted the need to send America to war to “defend its national interests” against “trans-national terrorist groups.” By his utterly meaningless definitions, we need to fight anyone, and we need to do it anywhere, and it is our right. A thrill went through the audience.

IMO it’s important to understand neocons and other reactionary hawks as pro-active isolationists. Oldstyle isolationists just wanted the outside world to stay out, and maybe go away. Pro-active isolationists will not rest until anything “outside” has been either forced into assimilation or destroyed. They’re something like the Borg, in other words.

Lund goes on to review the history of right-wing obstruction of U.S. foreign policy interests, from the 1930s Neutrality Acts to Richard Nixon’s sabotage of Lyndon Johnson’s attempt to negotiate a peace in Vietnam. And there is a review of Iran-Contra and the lie campaign that stampeded America into invading Iraq. And the fact that nobody ever is held accountable for any of this, and indeed, most of the voting public doesn’t really understand what was done, anyway.  Lund concludes,

In its Constitutional idolatry and boundless bellicosity, Cotton’s Republican Party has arrogated to itself the presumption that anything it does is explicitly American. The normative conditions of patriotism are whatever they want to do at any given moment, because only they have the courage to defend you from enemies abroad with guns and enemies at home via a fundamentalist reading of the texts and hadith of Our Founding Prophets (which, conveniently, also mentions guns). Anything outside their chosen agenda is met with the word no, which is the finest distillation of their agenda for anyone other than their own.

This prospective nuclear deal with Iran merely creates a shredded barbecue plate of corpses and the idea of America as commonwealth of disparate voices represented in equal strength. Government is not allowed to function when it disagrees with Cotton, because he not only considers government’s existence indivisible from his ideology but also because the Constitution in his reading explicitly demands that he do this. You cannot chasten a man who believes by the word of his holiest texts that this is his job. And his job, as written, is to advise and consent. On Iran, his message is clear. His advice is to stop, and you do not have his consent, which reifies not only the illegitimacy of your actions but the holy writ of his own. Without his consent, you cannot have anything at all, except a potential nuclear clash of messianic visions of world order. In which case – to quote the previous president’s nuanced address to the same enemies foreign and domestic – bring it on.

It’s also election day in Israel, and while Netenyahu’s Likud party is likely to lose he likely will be able to put together a coalition that will allow him to keep his position as Prime Minister. A pity.

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Adventures in Zen

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blogging

With apologies for my absence — I’m about to begin a long-term residency training program at the Zen Center of New York City in Brooklyn, and preparations have been daunting. I’ve sold, donated or discarded most of my stuff and moved what’s left into a self-storage place, and Tuesday I’ll move into the Zen Center. Right now Sadie Awful Bad Cat and I are staying with my daughter in Brooklyn, where Sadie will live here for at least a few months. She is already pretty much in charge.

I don’t anticipate this will affect Mahablog much. One of the reasons I chose this particular place is that it allows people free time to do other work or even hold an outside job, so once I’ve settled in I’ll have plenty of writing time. This coming week blogging may be a bit sparse, though.

Meantime, be sure to read “A Christian Nation? Since When?” by Kevin Kruse in the New York Times. It explains a lot.

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Daniel Halper of Weekly Standard Is Eight Years Old

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News Media

He seems to have been around for longer than that, I know, but being eight years old is the only excuse for this observation. It’s the sort of thing only a child would notice and comment upon.

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New Excuse for #47Traitors: We Were Just Kidding

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Obama Administration

You know the #47Traitors are getting some serious blowback when they resort to this for an excuse:

Republican aides were taken aback by what they thought was a lighthearted attempt to signal to Iran and the public that Congress should have a role in the ongoing nuclear discussions. Two GOP aides separately described their letter as a “cheeky” reminder of the congressional branch’s prerogatives.

“The administration has no sense of humor when it comes to how weakly they have been handling these negotiations,” said a top GOP Senate aide.

Yes, the Senate is a joke, but not a funny one.

Added a Republican national security aide, “The Senate should have a role. It would make any agreement have some sort of consistency and perpetuity beyond the president. And it would also be buy-in for the American people. Right now it’s just an agreement between the President of the United States and whoever the final signatory to the agreement is.”

Last night Jon Stewart pointed out that “Ronald Reagan, peace be upon him, signed over 1,500 executive agreements, including a nuclear deal with China and a hostage deal with — oh, how do I pronounce this? — Iran.” It may be that the executive agreement thing is something a sober and less acrimonious Senate might review and clarify, along with war powers, someday in the future when we have a sober and less acrimonious Senate. Assuming that day comes.

In the meantime, perhaps it would help if we all regarded the Senate, and of course the House too, as a kind of legislative embodiment of The Onion.

Update: See Annie Lauri

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Cotton Comes to Harmin’

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Congress, Middle East, Obama Administration, Republican Party

Japan had the 47 Ronin; we have the #47Traitors, currently the number one hashtag on Twitter. Heh. I do acknowledge that the 47 didn’t actually commit treason by U.S. standards; they were basically just being assholes. The Logan Act is another matter, of course, but an exceedingly fuzzy one.

Anyhoo, possibly the most delicious thing I read today was the response from Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Javad Zarif, who felt called upon to explain the U.S. Constitution and international law to the infamous 47.

Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration. He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.

Foreign Minister Zarif added that “I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfill the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.

The Iranian Foreign Minister added that “Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran`s peaceful nuclear program.” He continued “I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.

Of course, the #47Traitors don’t consider the Obama Administration to be the legitimate executive branch of the government, so this will have been lost on them. But how can some foreigner presume to speak for the “nuances” of the United States Constitution?  Wikipedia:

Zarif attended Drew College Preparatory School, a private college-preparatory high school located in San Francisco, California. He went on to study at San Francisco State University, from which he gained a BA in International Relations in 1981 and an MA in the same subject in 1982. Following this, Zarif continued his studies at the Graduate School of International Studies (now named the Josef Korbel School of International Studies) at the University of Denver, from which he obtained a second MA in International Relations in 1984 and this was followed by a PhD in International Law and Policy in 1988. His thesis was entitled: “Self-Defense in International Law and Policy”.

Oh, that’s how. He also represented Iran in the United Nations for a few years, so he’s spent quite a lot of time here.

At the New York Times, Rita from California wrote in a comment,

The letter is quite strange. It has kind of a chatty, juvenile tone to it – much like a gang of middle school kids suggesting to a star football player that he is making a mistake by hanging around the wrong crowd. May I paraphrase: “We just wanted to let you know that you are dealing with the wrong person. You really should be talking to us because “WE” are the “cool kids”. Clearly not the type of letter written by those serious about international relations.

Did these 47 Senators honestly think that the Iranian government is so benighted that it was not aware of the workings of the U.S. government or the politics at work in the US? Are these Senators really so ignorant of the world?

I love that; “We really should be making all the decisions because ‘WE’ are the ‘cool kids'” kind of sums up the GOP vibe, don’t you think? Well, that plus big doses of resentment and grievances to go with the entitlement.

Also in the New York Times:

But the senators’ suggestion that international political commitments made by presidents can and should be easily overturned — and therefore by implication have no value — is at odds with tradition, American security interests and good sense. Every president has negotiated scores of agreements with foreign governments that have not required congressional approval and sometimes, not even congressional review. These include last year’s security agreement with Afghanistan, the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime which aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and — oh yes — the 2013 interim agreement with Iran that has already substantially curbed the country’s ability to make nuclear fuel.

Oh, wait, who was President in 1987, again? I know it’ll come to me …

Charles Pierce has been going to town, so to speak, on the subject of ringleader Tom Cotton. One, Cotton made the Bush Administration disappear. Then read How Tom Cotton Runs the Nation.

I know I missed it on election night back in November, but it seems that 478,819 citizens of the state of Arkansas voted themselves in control of the foreign policy of the United States. They determined in ensemble fashion to visit upon the Senate—and, thereby, the country—the genius of Tom Cotton, who decided over the weekend on his own to lecture the government of Iran on How America Works—and, in fact, to lecture the government of Iran how it should work, for that matter. Put not your trust in Kenyan Usurpers, Tom cautioned the mullahs, for nothing is forever.

Cotton stands revealed as a true fanatic. He’s stalwart in his convictions as regards things about which he knows exactly dick. What he and practically every Republican in the Senate did was nothing short of a slow-motion, partial coup d’etat. It was not quite treason, and it was not quite a violation of the Logan Act, no matter how dearly some of us might wish it was. (Imagine the howls if the Justice Department actually inquired into that possibility, which it certainly has a right to do. Lindsey Graham might never rise from the fainting couch.) But it stands in history with Richard Nixon’s grotesque sabotage of the Paris Peace Talks in 1968 and with whatever it was that the Reagan campaign did to monkeywrench the possible release of the American hostages from their captivity in Iran in 1980. It is an act of unconscionable and perilous presumption, reckless at its base and heedless of eventual consequences.

Possibly the best part of Cotton’s move is that he has pretty much killed any chance Senate Republicans could get enough crossover Democratic support in an effort to put restrictions on President Obama’s efforts to reach a deal with Iran. Before Cotton pulled this stunt, there were a number of Dem Senators (and I’m looking at you, Chuck) who might have helped the Republicans keep war on the table. Right now about any Dem senator who dares stand with Republicans on this matter risks being laughed, if not drummed, out of the Party. This week, anyway.

Way to go, T.C.

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Flirting With Insurrection

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Congress, Obama Administration

Or, a tale of senatorial overreach …

A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.

Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

One suspects that by now the heads of Iran’s state department have figured out our constitutional system pretty well. They may understand it better than Rand Paul does, in fact.

Arms-control advocates and supporters of the negotiations argue that the next president and the next Congress will have a hard time changing or canceling any Iran deal — — which is reportedly near done — especially if it is working reasonably well.

Many inside the Republican caucus, however, hope that by pointing out the long-term fragility of a deal with no congressional approval — something Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also noted — the Iranian regime might be convinced to think twice. “Iran’s ayatollahs need to know before agreeing to any nuclear deal that … any unilateral executive agreement is one they accept at their own peril,” Cotton told me.

That “advice and consent of the Senate” bit in Article II Section 2 of the Constitution has always limited presidential maneuvering in foreign policy, but off the top of my head I can’t think of a time senators took it on themselves to do an end run around the executive branch to warn a foreign government not to negotiate with the U.S. Certainly the Constitution doesn’t give senators the authority to directly negotiate with foreign powers.

 Republicans also have a new argument to make in asserting their role in the diplomatic process: Vice President Joe Biden similarly insisted — in a letter to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell — on congressional approval for the Moscow Treaty on strategic nuclear weapons with Russia in 2002, when he was head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

That’s hardly the same thing. There’s nothing wrong with a U.S. senator reminding a U.S. secretary of state about that. However, negotiations with prickly foreign powers being what they are, it’s usually considered important for the senate to not undermine ongoing negotiations by contacting foreign countries directly.

Still, Senators from both parties are united in an insistence that, at some point, the administration will need their buy-in for any nuclear deal with Iran to succeed. There’s no sign yet that Obama believes this — or, if he does, that he plans to engage Congress in any meaningful way.

Hello? Article II section 2 is still in effect, is it not? I found a legal article explaining how this works:

The letter states that “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.”  But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification” (my emphasis).  Or, as this outstanding  2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117):  “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.”  Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane.  Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States.  As the CRS Report notes: “When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,” he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”

This is a technical point that does not detract from the letter’s message that any administration deal with Iran might not last beyond this presidency.  (I analyzed this point here last year.)  But in a letter purporting to teach a constitutional lesson, the error is embarrassing.

Congress is embarrassing, period.

Some rightie sites like Townhall are waxing hysterical that the President intends to bypass the Senate’s “ratification power,” but of course the current treaty is being negotiated the same ways treaties are always negotiated, and I haven’t heard a peep from the White House declaring that the usual processes wouldn’t be adhered to.

I found this on Findlaw:

Negotiation, a Presidential Monopoly .–Actually, the negotiation of treaties had long since been taken over by the President; the Senate’s role in relation to treaties is today essentially legislative in character. 259 ”He alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation, the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it,” declared Justice Sutherland for the Court in 1936. 260 The Senate must, moreover, content itself with such information as the President chooses to furnish it. 261 In performing the function that remains to it, however, it has several options. It may consent unconditionally to a proposed treaty, it may refuse its consent, or it may stipulate conditions in the form of amendments to the treaty, of reservations to the act of ratification, or of statements of understanding or other declarations, the formal difference between the first two and the third being that amendments and reservations, if accepted by the President must be communicated to the other parties to the treaty, and, at least with respect to amendments and often reservations as well, require reopening negotiations and changes, whereas the other actions may have more problematic results. 262 The act of ratification for the United States is the President’s act, but it may not be forthcoming unless the Senate has consented to it by the required two-thirds of the Senators present, which signifies two-thirds of a quorum, otherwise the consent rendered would not be that of the Senate as organized under the Constitution to do business. 263 Conversely, the President may, if dissatisfied with amendments which have been affixed by the Senate to a proposed treaty or with the conditions stipulated by it to ratification, decide to abandon the negotiation, which he is entirely free to do. 264
So, since long before the current President and Senate were in office, it’s been determined that the Senate has no authority to intrude into negotiations and is supposed to wait until the President submits a treaty to them for approval. And then they can propose changes if they want to. Those 47 senators were well outside the limits of their constitutional authority.
Update: Armin Rosen of Business Insider writes that the White House isn’t negotiating a treaty but an “executive agreement.” “It’s indisputable that the next president could cancel the deal unilaterally. And if Obama or the Iranians were uncomfortable with this, they would have insisted on Congressional ratification by now. They haven’t,” Rosen writes.

It’s safe to say that no president in modern times has had his legitimacy questioned by the opposition party as much as Barack Obama. But as his term in office enters its final phase, Republicans are embarking on an entirely new enterprise: They have decided that as long as he holds the office of the presidency, it’s no longer necessary to respect the office itself. …
… It’s one thing to criticize the administration’s actions, or try to impede them through the legislative process. But to directly communicate with a foreign power in order to undermine ongoing negotiations? That is appalling. And just imagine what those same Republicans would have said if Democratic senators had tried such a thing when George W. Bush was president.
Yes, just imagine.
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Jersey Boys

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Republican Party

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez is facing corruption charges that he accepted gifts from a political benefactor in exchange for favors. Corruption is something of a New Jersey tradition, of course, right up there with the Jersey Shore Food Truck Festival and Atlantic City mobsters. But, frankly, the charges against Menendez are small potatoes — in the form of Boardwalk Fries — compared to what it appears Gov. Chris “Hindenburg” Christie is trying to pull.

Here’s the background. For over a decade, New Jersey had been embroiled in a battle with Exxon Mobil over the contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of public land in the northern part of the state. The company was found liable several years ago, but the amount of damages and cleanup costs it owed had not yet been determined.

Expert witnesses for the state ballparked the total figure at $8.9 billion, and a judge was expected to rule on the final number soon. But then, this month, the state’s lawyers swooped in and decided to settle for a mere $225 million, not including undisclosed cleanup costs.

You will never guess why the state’s lawyers did such a thing. Oh, wait, you did guess.

Most of the coverage of the peculiarly low settlement has emphasized Exxon Mobil’s generous donations to the Republican Governors Association. The company gave hundreds of thousands of dollars last year, while Christie was its chair and the case was in trial; suspicions about a tacit tit-for-tat don’t seem unwarranted.

But there’s more!

Christie’s crowning achievement as governor of the Garden State has supposedly been balancing the budget without raising taxes. He’s even managed to reduce corporate taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars annually. But he’s primarily accomplished these goals through accounting tricks, raiding rainy-day funds and other shortsighted gimmicks. He has, in other words, sold off the state’s future to preserve the fiction of his fiscal responsibility.

These environmental settlements are no exception.

Historically, under state law, money received from environmental settlements has to be used on environmental efforts. But last year the Christie administration snuck some language into the state budget that effectively overrode this. For this fiscal year — and potentially this fiscal year only — the first $50 million of any environmental settlement will go toward environmental programs; anything above that can be diverted to plug holes in the state’s general fund.

You really have to read Brian Murphy’s bit at Talking Points Memo to take in the breadth of the whole thing and get just a glimpse of the many layers of kickbacks and quid pro quo going on here, and not limited to Christie himself. And it’s probably not even limited to Republicans. You’ll remember how the state Democratic party effectively stood aside and let Christie take the 2014 election without a fight. Now those same Dems in the state legislature are making much noise about investigations, but I question whether they mean it.

See also Charles Pierce.

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The Ferguson Report

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Obama Administration

Ta-Nahisi Coates has the best commentary I’ve seen on the Justice Department’s report on the Ferguson police department. Even though Officer Darren Wilson was not charged, the report itself focused on something much bigger and more important, which is the systemic exploitation of the black community to raise funds for the city. As Henry Farrell wrote, Ferguson was being run like a racket. And, of course, this isn’t an isolated thing. This is going on in communities around the country. See also Charles Pierce.

Update:

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Bibi Netanyahu Is to Iran What George Laffer Is to Economics

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Congress, Israel, Obama Administration

That is to say, wrong.

In the address on Tuesday to the United States Congress by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, we witnessed a new peak in the long-running hype over Iran’s nuclear energy program. Yet all his predictions about how close Iran was to acquiring a nuclear bomb have proved baseless.

Despite that, alarmist rhetoric on the theme has been a staple of Mr. Netanyahu’s career. In an interview with the BBC in 1997, he accused Iran of secretly “building a formidable arsenal of ballistic missiles,” predicting that eventually Manhattan would be within range. In 1996, he stood before Congress and urged other nations to join him to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capability, stressing that “time is running out.” Earlier, as a member of Parliament, in 1992, he predicted that Iran would be able to produce a nuclear weapon within three to five years.

In front of world leaders at the United Nations in September 2012, Mr. Netanyahu escalated his warnings by declaring that Iran could acquire the bomb within a year. It is ironic that in doing so, he apparently disregarded the assessment of his own secret service: A recently revealed document showed that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, had advised that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.” The United States intelligence community had reached the same conclusion in its National Intelligence Estimate.

Despite extensive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, no evidence has ever been presented to contradict the clear commitment by Iran’s leaders that they would under no circumstances engage in manufacturing, stockpiling and using nuclear weapons. In 2013, for example, only Japan, which has many more nuclear facilities than Iran, was subject to greater agency scrutiny.

Someone else remembered that Bibi told Congress in 2002 that getting rid of Saddam Hussein would have “enormous, positive reverberations on the region.”

Seriously, even Tom Friedman was unconvinced by Bibi’s speech yesterday. There is broad consensus that Netanyahu failed to explain how trashing the White House negotiations would result in anything better. He reminds me of the progressives who were opposed to the Affordable Care Act because they fantasized that trashing it would magically give us single payer.

Jim Newell of Salon called the speech an insult, not just to the White House but to Americans generally.

Where to begin? How about the section in the beginning where Netanyahu, patronizingly, delivers a history of the Iranian regime and its sponsorship of terrorism and insurgency against Americans in the region. Excuse me, but we don’t need to be told, by a foreign leader, how Iran has treated the United States. And then this: “Don’t be fooled. The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America.” Again, thanks, but we’ll figure out our foreign policy for ourselves.

So a foreign leader stood up in Congress, insulted not just the President but Americans in general, and the mostly Republican audience gave him 26 standing ovations. Why do Republicans hate America?

Fred Kaplan:

The Israeli prime minister pretended to criticize the specific deal that the United States and five other nations are currently negotiating with Iran, but it’s clear from his words that he opposes any deal that falls short of Iran’s total disarmament and regime change. He pretended merely to push for a “better deal,” but he actually was agitating for war.

Wingnuts think all peace agreements are “appeasement”; war is the only “serious” solution. Hence, 26 standing ovations.

It’s appalling that so many members of the U.S. Congress cheer Netanyahu’s every utterance as some holy oracle, seemingly unaware that many senior Israeli security officers dispute his assertions about the urgency of an Iranian nuclear threat—unaware even that he’s increasingly unpopular among his own citizens. It’s downright unseemly that these same members of Congress cheer his condemnation of the P5+1 deal as “a very bad deal”—they stand up, applaud madly, and howl toward the cameras and galleries—without giving their own president and his diplomats a chance to complete and defend the deal themselves.

Anything to give them an excuse to express their raging hatred of President Obama. That’s what’s really going on here. They’d invite the Devil himself to address Congress if he promised some anti-Obama red meat.

Unfortunately, a few Democrats went along with this circus. I want names, and I want them primaried. This crap has got to stop.

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An HRC Unforced Error

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Obama Administration

The scandal du jour is that, it has been revealed, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conducted official government business using a personal email account and not the government one, and on top of that did not archive her emails in the Department of State archive as required.

It’s entirely possible — and I would like to think true — that she never revealed sensitive information in emails and used email only for more informal communication. But we have no way to know that, and it looks bad.

It’s also absolutely true that Republicans Did It First.

But this story looks even worse if you transport yourself back to early 2009, when Clinton first became of Secretary of State and, according to this story, initially refused to use a governmental account. The Bush administration had just left office weeks earlier under the shadow of, among other things, a major ongoing scandal concerning officials who used personal email addresses to conduct business, and thus avoid scrutiny.

The scandal began in June 2007, as part of a Congressional oversight committee investigation into allegations that the White House had fired US Attorneys for political reasons. The oversight committee asked for Bush administration officials to turn over relevant emails, but it turned out the administration had conducted millions of emails’ worth of business on private email addresses, the archives of which had been deleted.

The effect was that investigators couldn’t access millions of internal messages that might have incriminated the White House. The practice, used by White House officials as senior as Karl Rove, certainly seemed designed to avoid federal oversight requirements and make investigation into any shady dealings more difficult. Oversight committee chairman Henry Waxman accused the Bush administration of “using nongovernmental accounts specifically to avoid creating a record of the communications.”

Also, too,

Three years ago we learned that Mitt Romney oversaw the purchase of 17 state-issued hard drives, and wiped clean computers and servers that contained electronic copies of emails from his gubernatorial office. Romney later admitted the move was intended to hide official correspondence from the public and keep potentially-embarrassing information under wraps in advance of his presidential campaign. During the 2012 race, Republicans said this didn’t matter, either.

But, y’know what? I don’t happen to think “Spanky (or whomever) did it first” is a valid excuse.

If she had had a publicly spelled-out policy that only the most routine and non-sensitive communication would be conducted by email I might be inclined to not care, or to write off the criticism as nit-picking, but I haven’t heard that she did.

I’m seeing a lot of people write this off as another faux scandal, but I agree with John Cole — this was a stupid unforced error. Could it be that she gets off on being investigated?

In other news: I realize this is Bibi Netanyahu Day in Congress. I’m waiting for the reviews.

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